Court upholds genocide trial for Guatemala's ex-dictator

Guatemala's highest court has rejected an amnesty appeal by former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who faces charges of genocide in the deaths of thousands of indigenous people during his regime in the 1980s, sources said Wednesday.

The sources said that the country's highest court, the Court of Constitutionality, rejected Rios Montt's legal bid to have the court case against him thrown out.

In doing so, it "upholds an earlier ruling by country's Supreme Court" which already had rejected his amnesty appeal, according to the source, one of the litigants in the case, which said the high court ruling was issued Tuesday.

The decision to put Rios Montt on trial will mark the first time genocide proceedings have been brought over the 36-year civil war in Guatemala that ended in 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead, according to the United Nations. He was in power from 1982 to 1983.

His attorneys have said that Rios Montt never knew the army was committing massacres during his administration.

Due to stand trial along with Rios Montt is retired general Jose Rodriguez, a former member of the military leadership.

hma/sg/jm